NINE - The Private Life Of Voles

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Been a few years since Hobson last slept in his office – he tried to avoid too many tragic detective clichés.

But after his late night call with Lyne, he'd reclined his chair, leaned back, closed his eyes and let himself slide away. Storming up and down those stairs earlier took more out of him than he'd realised. Soon enough, it was morning, and the sun was tickling his eyelids through the shitty blinds.

His office building might be down to earth and real than the twee shared workspace bullshit of the Inspiration Gestation Station, but at least the IGS had window-coverings which might keep out the sun, he thought, prising himself upright in his chair.

The shirt and trousers sweated onto his body in a few awful crevices, legs stiff and the rumbling, chattering sound in his skull felt like the start of a headache. Once he pulled his head from the awful sticky leather, Hobson realised that wasn't the case. It was coming from outside.

Shaking his head, Hobson turned to the computer, still humming away, jerked the mouse to wake the thing up and saw it was already eight.

Despite the creaking pain in his joints, he'd best get to work. Start by dialling the front desk.

"Morning Will. What's that noise? Are the locals demonstrating outside Tesco again?"

"No, Mister Hobson, there's a handful of press waiting at the door. A few of them rang the buzzer and asked to speak to you, but I said you weren't in yet."

"Shit. Could you keep that up please?"

"Of course."

"Thanks Will. You're a good doorman."

He hung up and swore, collapsing his head into his hands.


At seven, Angelina leapt out of bed with her alarm and clicked it off calmly. Her room was tidy, a tasteful shade of lilac with everything filed away into small plastic boxes. Her thoughts were calm. She would not punch her mother.

She lived in a loft conversion at the top of their house – a built-on adjoining palace for the only child. Why take the top floor yourself when you could give it to your teenager? Since she had all this space, best try to keep it tidy. There was an entire bathroom devoted to her – huge amounts of products, all efficiently stored in yet more racks of pastel-coloured boxes.

Calmly, she cleansed herself, rubbing the grease off her face, washing her hair and putting on the bare minimum of make-up. Hobson didn't seem like he had much time for heavy cosmetics. She'd been wearing some eyeshadow on her first day, but even that seemed a lot now she'd met him.

Once ready, she made her way downstairs, swinging around the landing to the bottom floor. Her Mum was already at the dining room table. As Angelina leapt off the final few stairs, thumping into the ground, her Mum marched right out to meet her in the hall. Everything was still, white and cold. The family portrait glared at them.

"Angelina. It's seven thirty, why are you up?"

"Mister Hobson asked me to be in early. Lots to do today," she said, brushing past to get to the cereal.

"You're not going back there, Angelina. Some greasy photographer is hanging around outside. Honestly don't know where these people come from, but you're not going to that office."

"But Mum..."

"Sorry, dear. No."

Angelina clattered her bowl down, trying to stay calm and mannered. "Mum, the police are on the case now, we're just asking some questions, I promise it'll be fine, just let me go back to work."

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